In recent months it became apparent that my experiences on the R40 tour in 2015 were much too vast and deep to fit into a couple of website stories. Plus I had far too many scenic and narrative photographs to fit in my usual format here. It would have to be a book.
Yet I did not want to neglect this forum and its audience-just "go dark" on everybody for the year or so it might take to put together a book. A fun solution to that conundrum might be...this! During the tour I had been sending occasional images of the day's travels to my circle of friends under the BubbaGram™ title, so I will continue that theme here. At semi-regular intervals I will post a photograph or two and an anecdote, to represent the work in progress.
The above T-shirt image was inspired by a failed experiment a few years ago. Just at sunrise Michael and I rode out of Seymour, Texas (making an early start because those days were fiercely hot, and we had far to go to the next show). As we rode along with the sun just creeping over the horizon, I pulled out my camera and snapped a few "action self-portraits." One time I stretched out my left arm to aim the camera forward and Michael adopted this pose, but unfortunately, in that dim light on a bouncy two-lane, the result was too blurry to use. Still, I loved its "message."
When I showed it to Michael later, he laughed and bellowed in a theatrical voice, "Bring the horizon to me!" I laughed along and asked him where he'd picked that up. He didn't remember, but I eventually traced it to one of the Pirates of the Caribbean (please say "Cari-BE-an") movies. The context, though, is quite different from my imagining-at the end of the film the perpetually swizzled Captain Jack Sparrow merely caresses the ship's wheel and mumbles in a lifeless deadpan, "Now, bring me that horizon..." [tuneless humming] "and really bad eggs. Drink up me hearties, yo-ho."
Rather less "scenery-chewing" than my interpretation-so I'll stick with mine.
(And yes I know there's a band called Bring Me the Horizon, with the same inspiration-the other day, stopped at a red light in Westside L.A., I looked over and saw their posters on a construction hoarding. I thought, "Wha-a-a-at?" and my heart sank a little. Depending on how popular they become, it may affect my choice for the book's subtitle. Though that and the title remain undecided. Maybe Far and Wide: Bring That Horizon to Me! with another version of the above T-shirt photograph.)
In early summer of 2015, as Michael and I began our travels on the R40 tour, I was determined to restage that photograph in better light and with more care. Once we got to open country (the West), we set it up a couple of times. When the all-important horizon stretched wide from the road's vanishing point, I waved Michael to park at the roadside. I circled back and passed at moderate speed, cruise control on, then he stepped out behind me and snapped the shot. The T-shirt version was taken in western Kansas, near the Colorado line.
A longstanding tradition on rock tours is that toward the end each independent contractor, or "vendor" (sound company, lighting, lasers, pyro, trucks, buses) will produce a tour T-shirt. (Sometimes more useful swag, like laundry bags or luggage cases-or a more permanent remembrance, like the cool TAG watches we got for our crew after R40.)
(In light of how long some of them have been with us-many for decades-I like the engraving we chose: "Thanks for the memories.")
Since the Test for Echo tour in 1996-'97, when I first traveled by motorcycle, my riding partners and I have often played with that tradition. Longtime merch guy Patrick McLoughlin always helps with the designs, and for that first one Brutus and I commissioned the "Scooter Trash" logo from Hugh Syme (I think the bike image was lifted from BMW). For the lettering I asked Hugh for something along the lines of what he used on A Show of Hands (which Geddy once described as "like something scrawled by a murderer"). On the back, rather than the usual tour dates, we listed some of our favorite day-off destinations.
Some names were chosen solely for their humor (however childish-actually, I like the word "puerile," because it includes a snide twist beyond boyish or childish), others for their history, and some for the beauty of their surroundings (Death Valley, Sun Valley, Grand Canyon). At least one, Mexican Hat, represents all three. The last two, of course, were our nicknames. (One of them, in my case, see "Bubba and the Professor.")
A few years later a shirt was produced to promote my Ghost Rider book. The front was the book's cover and on the back I listed some of the destinations that had been important in that journey. What a travelog they make, and there is even a happy ending with the last place name.
Toward the end of the Vapor Trails tour in 2002 Michael and I made a similar list of place names, once again chosen for both silliness and splendor. We included a new gang name, the West Side Beemer Boyz, framed by pop culture references from Limp Bizkit and Dave Eggers. The last destination once again represents a happy ending, while the penultimate two are locations where Michael crashed (without injury except to bike and pride-he was green then, but well-armored).
That tour I had my own "get-off" (I like the wry British humor that goes, "I just stepped off my bike in Corner Three") near Teec Nos Pos, a dot in the desert of northeast Arizona, near Monument Valley. In summer 2002, during the Vapor Trails tour, Michael and Brian Catterson and I were lost and bushwhacking through the vast Navajo reservation on impossibly rugged 4x4 tracks. In one sandy stretch Michael's rear tire spun helplessly until it was buried to the hub, and we were able to try a technique that until then I had only read about. Rather than try to dig it out, we laid the bike on its side, slid it over a little, then stood it up outside the rut. Worked a charm.
A few minutes later I came bucking up the hump of a rise in slippery dust and gravel, lost the front wheel, and the bike went over sideways. I did a neat little somersault on the ground, then quickly got up to be sure everything "worked." After assuring Brian that I was fine, I posed for a photo with my foot atop the fallen beast, as if on a hunting trophy.
(Verona, Kentucky, is included because part of Michael's boyhood was spent there, just south of Cincinnati. He made us stop and look at where the house used to be-a former funeral home, now demolished and replaced by a car repair shop. After we marveled at that sight for a while...we rode on past Big Bone Lick State Park. I swear. Because they found dinosaur bones there. And because a lick is what would be locally pronounced as a "crick." And because we are...puerile.)
At the end of the Snakes and Arrows tour in 2007-'08 Michael and I came up with a shirt that introduced one of my new themes, "Shunpiking." On the back we listed all of the cheap places we had stayed-all perfectly fine havens on the backroads of America, and all memorable enough that I can still picture each one. A number of them we've even been back to, because...location.
"Camp Brutus" was a reference to our bus, on which we slept every show night, as we continued to do right up to the R40 tour.
"That's the Way We Roll" was a sly comment on the contrast between my accommodations (and expenses) on the road compared to my bandmates'.
For the Clockwork Angels tour Michael and I went with something simpler: a riding photo on the front showing your correspondent threading a series of curves in Kentucky.
On the back was a phrase that has continued to reveal its truth every tour:
"The best roads are the ones no one travels unless they live on them."
This time, for the R40 tour shirt, I thought I'd like to use that "Horizon" theme on the front. Because it amused me. (Multiple levels of meaning, I think.) For the back I chose an image from a ride in the Colorado mountains. (The irony at the time was that Michael and I had just ridden out of the road pictured. But true, no ordinary car-or motorcycle-could have made it.)
I like the way the two images and texts comment on each other-though my mother, for one, thinks it's kind of sad. Perhaps not everyone shares my feeling (and my frequent experience) that even if the road ends, there's still another horizon...